Meet Caroline and Christine Strzalka, Co-Founders of itsbyu

entrepreneur, inspiration, PE Intensive 2016, startup

Get insights and advice from some of the most innovative entrepreneurs out there. Leading up to Project Entrepreneur’s Intensive in NYC from April 9-10, 2016, we’ll be profiling the PE Class of 2016 finalists. Follow along for the latest on the Intensive with #PEIntensive16.

Meet Caroline and Christine Strzalka – sisters and co-founders of itsbyu, a DIY flower kit company (think of it as the Blue Apron of flowers!), started in NYC and is set to launch this Spring. We sat down with the Strzalka sisters to get insights and inspiration:

What inspired you to start your company?

We’re sisters and we always wanted to start a company together. We had been looking around for the right idea and came across a phenomenon that Christine was experiencing as part of her floral business; namely that brides were coming to her to learn how to make their own wedding flowers so that they could save money. Because this was becoming over 50 percent of her business, we realized that there was a large underserved market for DIY flowers.  So we came up with the concept to create DIY flower kits to give customers everything that they needed to make their own flower arrangements – organic, fair trade flowers, all the tools and accessories, and a streaming online lesson. The video lesson component is really important because our customer has to see the technique in order to successfully make the arrangement. It was the perfect timing for us in terms of technology to incorporate this digital component – so many people now have smart phones and devices where they can stream video from anywhere. We saw the need and we had the relationships and technology to make this happen, so we went for it!      

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

So far, the biggest challenge has been finding the right vendors who could create what we were envisioning.  We probably made every mistake in the book in the beginning – hiring videographers and developers who over-promised and under-delivered. We literally had to scrap everything and re-start from scratch once we found the right vendors so that we could put best foot forward with our product.

What’s been the greatest reward?

That we have become even closer as sisters! We get to work together on a daily basis tackling things that we, frankly, have never done before. We figure out solutions together and have been able to divide and conquer based on our skill sets. It’s been a great ride so far!

Who or what motivates you to keep going, even when things get tough.

We keep on reminding ourselves that the US the best place in the world to start a company and that we have been blessed to be here as first generation Americans. This is our golden ring for us to grab and for us to lose if we don’t try.  We are so excited about the concept of itsbyu and know it will go far, so we see tough times as a minor roadblock in this marathon of starting and running a company. Both of our futures are riding on this, so that also motivates us – to make not just ourselves but our sister successful and fulfilling our collective potentials.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to another entrepreneur just starting out?

It is very hard to start a company on your own and you will need at least one partner, so choose wisely! Since we are sisters who have been through so much together in life, we trust each other implicitly.  You need to understand your partner’s motivations and share a vision of what you’re starting together; this can be hard to ascertain even when you have known someone for a couple of years. Think about partnering up with friends or colleagues that you admire and trust and who will be with you for the long haul. It can become a short list rather quickly, but these are the people from whom you should choose.